Today’s Featured Author – Vasant Davé

Today, I would like to welcome author Vasant Davé to my blog. Please enjoy this excerpt from his historical novel Trade Winds to Meluhha. 

Excerpt – Chapter 7

Swells higher than a man’s height rocked Captain Paravar’s ship. His sailors sniggered as Sam sat at the base of the mast, gripping it like a child hugging its mother. Although he was used to the howling desert winds, he had never heard such ominous rumbling every time the lightning stabbed the darkness. The waves slapped the vessel whose woodwork screeched eerily, making Sam wish he could shut his ears just like his eyes.

Had fate saved him from execution only to drown him at sea?

Shouts accompanied by a fluttering sound told Sam that several sailors were busy taking down the sail. From the Captain’s bellows, Sam guessed that he was fighting hard along with his sailors to drain out the deluge of water from the vessel.

Perhaps the situation was not as grim as he feared. Shouldn’t he too perform his duty? “The foal would have been scared to death by now,” was his first thought.

He got up like a child learning to walk, and tottered to the animal. One look at it threw the storm out of his mind. It lay sprawled on the deck, soaked to the skin and staring at the sky.

Sam’s arms slipped around the foal’s neck, and he broke down.

He was not aware when the storm showed signs of abetting, and the sailors started gathering around him. A hand gripped his shoulder. He knew it was the Captain, but was unable to look up and meet his eye.

Then he heard the Captain’s soothing voice. “We could save it from man, but not from nature. Perhaps it was its destiny to be buried at sea.”

As the Captain’s footsteps retreated, Sam thought that his palm sensed a throb. He sat up and perceived a weak pulse. Spinning around, he shouted. A couple of sailors ran to bring warm water and dry cloth as he bade. Another hurried to fetch an earthen pot containing smouldering coal to start a fire.

Cajoling the foal, Sam cleaned and rubbed its limbs. Little by little he poured warm broth into its mouth. He saw its hide shiver, and then its chest heave. Then it neighed as if under unbearable pain. He patted and cheered it. “Captain,” he yelled, “your little one has got over the worst.”

Sam heard the Captain hollering ‘thanks’, and then asking his deputy to set free one of the two rock doves in the cage. They watched the bird taking off towards the stern and fluttering away. “Turn her around,” ordered the Captain.

As the crew started the exercise, Sam went to the head sailor and said, “Why did you release the pigeon? Wasn’t it meant for the Captain’s dinner?”

“No,” said the head sailor. “Those birds are our best friends. When we lose our way at sea, we release a dove. It always flies away in the direction of land.”

Sam saw the Captain studying the mast which whipped at the top. There was concern on his face. Summoning two sailors, he instructed them. They tied a piece of rope around their waists and scaled the mast. Suspended high above the deck, they commenced a long struggle to fix a supporting strut to the mast.

The foal had slipped into a nap and Sam watched the Captain with interest as he gave periodic instructions with one eye on the sky. At one point he said, “There, the Vata-miin is now visible. Get me the kamal.”

Following his gaze, Sam recognised the Pole Star Thuban shining in the northern sky. The head sailor came, carrying a wooden card with a hole in its centre through which passed a string. The Captain held the string between his teeth and moved the card to and fro at the Thuban. Then he marked a position on the string with a knot.

He walked towards his cabin, measuring the length from the knot to the card with his fingers. The head sailor ran ahead of him, lighted a couple of lamps and flung open an ebony chest. Selecting a tome of barks from several stored inside, the Captain studied it for quite some time. “We’re somewhere near Sutantoru1-on-Sea,” he announced at last, and strode to the rudder to take charge.

Around midnight, an excited cry woke up everybody. The Captain strained to see in the direction pointed by the sailor. “Yes,” he agreed, “we were closer to the port than I reckoned.”

Sam discerned a weak flicker of light far away. “That’s one of your regular ports of call, isn’t it?” he asked.

“No, it’s one port that prefers foreign ships to our own.”

“Any ship, whether local or foreign, pays the port for the facilities, doesn’t it?”

“Sutantoru has its reasons,” said the Captain. “One, the monsoons don’t affect its route to Suméru as they do in Alatinam and Port Lothal. This port is accessible to Sumérian ships all the year round.”

Sam waited for him to continue, but there was silence. He turned to see the Captain’s face in the dark. “What is another?”

“Sutantoru is notorious for some sort of slavery, which would never be permitted at other ports.”

“Slavery? With Sumér?”

With a sigh, the Captain started walking towards his cabin. Sam considered it best to resolve an issue that was on his mind. Catching up, he said: “The foal is too weak to continue the voyage, Captain. Shall we leave it in Sutantoru?”

“I can’t abandon it, Samorist.”

Sam thought that since he did not know where Hiwa Haqra lived, he might as well start his search from Sutantoru-on-Sea rather than from Port Lothal. “I’ll go along with the baby if its buyer provides me shelter and food,” he said.

The Captain shook his head. “Who will buy a sick animal?”

“It’s not just any animal,” said Sam, and he immediately realized that he had given away annoyance in his voice. He quickly added, “As I told you, Captain, it’s going to grow up into a lovely mare.”

“To the people who have never seen a horse, Samorist, it’s no more than an exotic breed of donkey.”

Sam considered it practical to postpone his search for Hiwa Haqra till the foal had grown up. A mare could be an invaluable help in Meluhha, the land of long distances.

“Suppose nobody takes it away, Captain,” he said quietly. “I’ll stay back in Sutantoru to look after it.”

Book Blurb

trade windsSamasin, an orphaned stable boy, rushes to help a foreigner sprawled with a slashed neck in a deserted tavern. Gasping for the last breath, the stranger presses a fish-hook in his hand and pleads, ‘Give to Siwa Saqra.’ Just then, a crowd rushes in and accuses the bewildered youngster of the Meluhhan’s murder. In order to clear his name from the stigma of manslaughter, Sam must hunt down the killer.

He flees Babylon under the darkness of night, and shivering violently, swims to a ship setting sail for Meluhha. Unknowingly, he has embarked on pursuit of an evil trade wrecking the lives of many a young Mesopotamian. A severe monsoon storm, besides ravaging their little vessel, blows it off its course. During his journey in exotic Meluhha, Sam survives several situations which would have cost him his life. However, it never occurs to the naïve stable boy that a powerful foe does not want him to see Siwa.

Sam encounters Siwa’s haughty daughter who takes an instant dislike for the grinning young man seemingly because he hails from Mesopotamia. Her slim dark form and long swinging hair steal his heart. With an eye on her as she hovers in the background, he sees Siwa staring blankly at the fish-hook and his jaw drops. Who else did the dead man actually intend to convey the ‘message’?

Inspired by Thor Heyerdahl’s voyage in a reed ship across Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, TRADE WINDS TO MELUHHA is an adventure unfolding between two ancient lands of Mesopotamia and Indus Valley Civilization.

About the Author 

vAuthorAs a retired engineer walked through the ruins of Lothal in Western India, his mind went back to his childhood in the Kenyan port of Mombasa where, as school boy, he used to be awed by wooden dhows sailing out to the open sea. The tourist guide was showing a gigantic rectangle made from bricks on the ground level. It was almost filled to the brim with soil, “to preserve it from erosion”, he said. “It’s the world’s oldest excavated port,” he added, “which was used by Indus Valley ships trading with Mesopotamia.”

Maritime trade across 3,000 Km of sea when iron was not yet discovered, and the magnetic compass was unkown? That query set Vasant Davé on a search for more information about both the Bronze Age civilizations, which ultimately resulted in the writing of the historical novel ‘Trade winds to Meluhha’.

During his professional career, Vasant had provided Industrial Market Research services to corporate clients in Australia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Singapore, the UK and the USA. His articles/anecdotes were published in Readers’ Digest, Economic Times, Business India, Dawn, Telematics India, Studio Systems and Shankar’s Weekly.

You can connect with Vasant on Facebook, Twitter or his website.

You can purchase Trade Winds to Meluhha on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Store and Smashwords.

 

Today’s Featured Author – Geetanjali Mukherjee

Today I welcome non-fiction author Geetanjali Mukherjee to my blog. Her latest book, Anyone Can Get an A+, came out September of 2015. It is currently on sale for 99 cents through Feb. 19th. 

Interview

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India. I moved around a fair bit, I have lived in Mumbai and moved to New Delhi just before high school. I have also lived for stints in the U.K. and the U.S. Currently, I call Singapore home.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I do a combination of the two, in the sense that I have an outline, but it’s not too detailed, and I often deviate from it. For my most recent book Anyone Can Get An A+, I wrote out a list of topics I wanted to cover, and then started to write based on that. Many of those topics were later combined in one chapter, others were spread out, so the outline was quite fluid. I’m following a similar approach with the book I am writing now. On the other hand, for the novel I wrote during Nanowrimo last year, I started out with a very vague idea of the characters and the plot, and just wrote whatever occurred to me. About halfway through however, I was getting stuck and despairing of ever getting to the finish line, so I adopted author Rachel Aaron’s approach of writing down the main points of each scene before actually writing it. I found this helped me a lot, especially in the last few days when I was writing 4-5000 words a day to finish on time.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I definitely believe that all my books have an aspect of my personality in them. I also feel I have gotten a little more confident with each book, no longer believing like I used to that the author needs to keep their personality or their real selves at arm’s length while writing. As a result, I think I have inserted more of my personality into each successive book. My current book, Anyone Can Get An A+, is full of anecdotes and personal experiences that illustrate how I personally applied the principles and advice in the book.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

The best thing is that you get to chase after an idea that you had, and bring something into the world that didn’t exist previously except only in your head. That’s pretty cool to me. The worst thing — everything else. Having to spend time alone for hours on end can be great for an introvert, until it isn’t. Having to wrestle with wondering if you can pull this off, with a constant sense of inadequacy, with having people look at you like you are a freak for spending your time writing, or worse, telling you how lucky you are, and how if they had the time, they too could have written a book. People assuming that somehow you are lazy for choosing to pursue your love of the written word, or envious of how easily it comes to you, when at least in my case, I work pretty hard at each book, all the while constantly battling the impostor syndrome. Having said that, I wanted to be a writer since I first walked into a bookstore and imagined my books on its shelves, and whether I do it part-time or full-time, I never want to give it up.

Please tell us about your current release.

My current release is a book on study skills and learning titled Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades. It is a conversational, down-to-earth guide for high school and college students on how to maximize their learning and get the grades they want. At the same time, since the advice in the book is based on extensive reading on cutting-edge research on neuroscience and psychology, I believe that it is equally applicable to adults going back to school, parents trying to homeschool their children and anyone looking to learn new skills or languages on the side.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote this book because I wanted to share the lessons I learnt from my own experiences as well as my research into the optimum ways to learn, and I realized that many students use sub-optimal methods to study and then blame themselves or think they are lacking in intelligence when they are unable to improve their grades in school. This is a serious issue, because many young people are resorting to extreme measures when unable to cope with the pressures of schoolwork and the need to get increasingly higher grades amidst tougher competition. My goal was to help students to deal with these pressures by providing advice that they could follow to not only help them with their assignments and test scores, but enable students to actually learn deeper and enjoy their schoolwork more, with less stress.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I have been researching this topic for many years, because it was a particular interest of mine. Specifically, in the year or so before I wrote the book, I read books and numerous articles on study skills written by successful students and teachers, as well as research on how the brain works, how it learns and retains information and how we learn new skills. I also read a lot on psychology, on increasing productivity and time-management, and even on the effect of lifestyle factors such as nutrition on improved concentration and memory. I learnt many interesting things while researching this book, including exactly what happens in our brain when we learn something new, and how to transform something that we want to apply and use into a skill that we can tap into at will.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I am about halfway through my next project. In keeping with the theme of writing about college and studying, it is a book of (hopefully) humorous essays on my time at university in England – basically documenting all the strange and incredible experiences I went through, being a foreign student in UK, navigating the challenges of college life in an alien environment. It’s actually something I thought about writing for a while, and finally decided that I had to either bite the bullet and write it, or decide to bury it in my pile of ideas.

Do you have an all-time favorite book?

This sort of question is very hard to answer, because I have a list of favorite novels that I love almost equally, and like to return to over and over, but the first one that springs to mind is Pride and Prejudice, which in my opinion is one of the most perfect novels ever written. I have very diverse interests when it comes to reading, and the close runner’s up would be the Harry Potter series, anything by Agatha Christie, the plays of Oscar Wilde, the Anne of Green Gables series and A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I could read any one of these books, and be completed cheered up, as well as transported to the time I first read them, in awe of characters and stories that are completely captivating in their own way.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

I always felt like I was living in the wrong time, that I would be far more suited to a different century. I would love to live in the world of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, attending balls and discussing one’s neighbors. Failing that, like children everywhere, I would love to be a student at Hogwarts, and learn spells, befriend magical creatures and fight dark forces.

What book are you reading right now?

I am reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I have never read any of his books before, but I am loving this one so much, I can’t wait to read some of his others. I am also re-reading Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, which I had read as a child. I bought a copy for myself a few months ago, and have been saving it – sometimes half the fun of reading a good book is the anticipation. I am also dipping into Marian Keyes’ collection of humorous essays, Under the Duvet, for inspiration – she is also one of my favorite authors.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

I would pick Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen – I imagine both would be scintillating conversationalists – Wilde with a stream of witticisms, and Austen’s biting sarcasm and social commentary. Although I am not sure that I would like to have them in the same room, there might be verbal fireworks!

Book Blurb

Study Book 1.12Do you wish you could get better grades? Do you struggle with certain subjects and believe that maybe you’re not cut out for them? Do you want to spend less time studying and still get good grades? Maybe you think that some subjects are just not for you. Maybe you don’t like to study, because you secretly believe that you just don’t have what it takes, so why bother? Maybe you are a parent, worrying about your child’s grades, worrying whether they will be able to qualify for the opportunities you want for them. Studying for tests and exams can be stressful, not just for students, but also for teachers and parents. Grades in school exams and standardized tests can seem to determine your entire future, and yet many students are not able to get the grades they think they need to succeed.

Anyone Can Get An A+ is a conversational, down-to-earth guide for high school and college students on how to maximize their learning and get the grades they want. This book draws on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and gives students practical advice that they can implement right away, to overcome procrastination, make the most of their study time and improve their grades significantly.

The book includes sections on how the right nutrition and diet can aid learning, how to organize your time and study schedule, how to keep track of all your deadlines and school-related paperwork, and how to overcome procrastination to complete your schoolwork on time. The author also discusses how students can incorporate the latest research on education and learning into their everyday study habits.

Anyone Can Get An A+ contains 39 tips on various aspects of studying and preparing for exams. In this book, you will learn:
• How best to prepare for exams
• What is the top mistake most students make when doing exam preparation and how to avoid it
• How to overcome procrastination and use your study time wisely
• How to break down larger assignments into smaller chunks
• How to write a paper
• How to use small segments of time effectively
• How to get help to understand difficult material

This book includes techniques that work for both high school and college students. Although some of the examples used may resonate more easily with college students, it is never too early to start good study habits, and many of the tips translate equally to high school and college. The author herself learnt many of these techniques while preparing for board exams in high school.

About the Author 

Geetanjali MukherjeeGeetanjali Mukherjee is the author of six non-fiction books, three of which are written for students. She has a background in law and public policy, with a keen interest in human rights and international relations. She has lived in four countries on three continents, can cook dishes from around the world, and loves to binge watch TV crime and medical dramas. Geetanjali’s latest book, Anyone Can Get An A+ is a guide for students struggling with the pressures of schoolwork, giving practical tips gleaned from the latest research in psychology, neuroscience and cognitive thinking.

You can find out more about Geetanjali on her blog or by following her on Twitter and Facebook.

You can purchase Anyone Can Get An A+ on Amazon. Remember it is on sale for 99 cents from today thru Feb. 19th.